A specialist support centre dedicated to victims of rape and sexual assault has been extended to children across Norfolk.
Since opening in September 2010 the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) – aptly named the Harbour Centre – has provided assistance for those aged 13 and over.
But from January 2015 the centre will be officially opening its doors to children aged under 13 who are in need of round-the-clock help.
The move has been welcomed by a mother whose young daughter was sexually abused.
After reporting the abuse to police Susie’s daughter was taken to a video interview suite in Lynn before undergoing a paediatric medical examination at hospital the next day.
The launch of the new service now means child victims will be taken to a single location for a paediatric assessment and medical examination as well as support from a dedicated Child Advocate.
Susie, 40, and who comes from the Lynn area, described the new facility as a “warm environment”.
“It felt like we were at the hospital for hours and now when I say the word ‘hospital’ to my daughter she is taken back to that day again and withdraws.
“The Harbour Centre is just much more of a home from home.
“It is great to see little play areas for children which will help them to feel as comfortable as they can.”
Susie was supported by a Child Advocate – one of two currently funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office.
The role of the Child Advocate has been in place since November 2013 with the main aim to provide support for child victims of serious sexual assault as well as their families.
Susie, added: “It was really nice to have the support from the child advocate not only for my child but it was also good for me to have someone impartial to talk to at such a difficult time.
“I wouldn’t wish what happened to us on anyone else but I would urge other people to do the right thing by their child and pick up the phone because there is help out there.”
The SARC in Mattishall, near Dereham, was officially opened in September 2010 to victims of rape and serious sexual assault aged 13 or over and is a joint venture between Norfolk Constabulary and NHS England.